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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1205267-Cover-Letters-for-Short-Stories
Rated: E · Article · Writing · #1205267
Written mostly for genre fiction writers new to submitting for publication.
When I first began submitting my short stories for publication, I had no idea that cover letters existed until I'd chosen to submit my story to a publisher whose submission guidelines required that a cover letter accompany every manuscript. Once aware of cover letters, however, I found myself confused. So I conducted a bit of research in an attempt to discover what type of information should be included in such a letter. If you are just embarking on the writer’s journey and seeking to submit your first short story manuscript, hopefully this article will assist you as some guides on cover letters have helped me in the past.

Despite any advice I offer, however, please be sure to read a publication's current submission guidelines and only send what the editor(s) request. Disobeying submission guidelines can sometimes lead to an automatic rejection of your short story. Some editors do not require you to send cover letters with your short story manuscripts, but when a cover letter is required try to think of your letter as a courteous, professional introduction to you.

Before we go any further, though, I would like to stress once more that this article was written with mostly a certain type of short story writer in mind--the one who, like myself, is predominately interested in submitting short stories to small press publications that publish genre fiction. Particularly publications like those listed at Ralan.Com whose editors rarely request query letters and are willing to publish unsolicited short story manuscripts. If you are not this sort of writer but still interested in this article, then please grab your magnifying glass and come along with me to take a closer look at cover letters for short stories.

In regards to short story submissions, cover letters are usually brief letters containing one to three short paragraphs, and is most often paper-clipped in front of your manuscript’s first page when you snail mail your submission. If you are submitting your manuscript through email, then your cover letter comes before your story as the main body of your email, and still serves as your introduction. Whether you are submitting through postal mail or email, your cover letter should be single-spaced, written in standard block or semi-block format, and double-spaced between paragraphs. If you are mailing your manuscript, then you should consider typing your cover letter on plain white 8 ½” by 11” paper, using a font such as 12 point Times New Roman in black. A hardcopy of a cover letter should only be one page in length with your typeface taking up about half of the page.

As stated, the number of paragraphs in a cover letter can vary. But, regardless of how many paragraphs there are, some information that is usually listed in cover letters includes your story’s title and your story’s word count. If you are submitting your manuscript through mail, as opposed to email, you might also want to state that a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) is enclosed, and that there is no need to return the manuscript.

Here are a few other tips you might want to keep in mind when preparing your letter:

1. Remember to keep your letter short. Avoid including any irrelevant personal information that doesn't pertain to your story submission. There is no need to include your life history or anything else that doesn't relate to your story. Avoid giving a detailed description of your short story, as well.

2. Make sure to address your cover letter to a specific person whenever possible. Editors' names are usually listed with a publication's submission guidelines. When this is not the case, try to research market listings or find the masthead of the publication to locate the editor's name. If unsure of an editor's gender, then consider using the editor's full name; for example, "Dear Pat Lewis," or "Dear Editor Lewis." In case of initials, "Dear J. T. Marshall," or "Dear Editor Marshall," should be appropriate. Avoid addresing an editor by his or her first name unless the editor has used your first name, or signed his or her first name in subsequent correspondence.

3. Remain positive. Never write about how your story has been rejected in the past, if that is the case. There's no need to mention that you're unpublished, either, unless the editor requests such information. Most editors aren't concerned about whether or not you have been previously published. When they are interested in knowing of your publishing status, it will likely benefit writers. For example, mentioning that you have not been professionally published in your cover letter to the editor at Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine would be appropriate because the editor is especially interested in seeking short stories from such writers. EQMM, as the publication is also called, even has a "Department of First Stories" set up to receive submissions from writers who haven't been published professionally. Otherwise, don't worry about mentioning you're unpublished.

4. Be professional in crafting your letter. Resist making witty comments or statements that hype your story. It's highly unlikely that an editor won't appreciate your attempts, and might form a less than favorable view of your submission package. Avoid making self-depricating remarks about yourself and your writing. It is understandable that you might be nervous about submitting and are grappling with self-doubt about your writing skills, but there's no need to express those feelings in your letter. And lastly, remember to double-check your spelling and grammar--it matters just as much as it does with your short story manuscript. A cover letter containing misspellings and poor grammar will probably lead an editor to expect the same lack of professionalism in your manuscript.

Below are two samples. Sample A represents one that would accompany an email submission. Sample B represents a cover letter that would accompany a snail mail submission.

Sample A:

Your Name
Your Address
Your Telephone Number
Your Email Address

Date

Editor’s Name
Publication's Title
Publication's Address

Dear [Editor’s Name]:

Please consider my 2,500-word, previously unpublished manuscript, “Your Story’s Title,” for publication at Any Title Magazine. I have sent my story as an .rtf attachment, as the submission guidelines suggested.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Your Name


Sample B:

Your Name
Your Address
Your Telephone Number
Your Email Address

Date

Editor’s Name
Publication's Title
Publication's Address

Dear [Editor’s Name]:

Please consider my 2,500-word, previously unpublished manuscript, “Your Story’s Title,” for publication at Any Title Magazine. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply. There is no need to return the manuscript should my story not interest you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Your Name


Best wishes on making a good impression with your cover letter, and on achieving your goal of becoming a published author.


Update: The website you have choosing to submit just go online to submission, please. For examples, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Submissions System  , Flash Fiction Online Submission  , and Sanitarium Publishing Submission  .

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